NORWALK, Conn. – It’s “one customer a day, sometimes nothing” for Cedar Street barber Joesph Buono, meaning there’s plenty of time to watch the construction going on just beyond the brand new concrete walkway leading up to his underutilized front door.
That includes, recently, men with shovels using a backhoe to lift granite curbs into place around the island just across the way, at the corner of Fairfield Avenue, and construction workers allowing one lane of traffic to go by at a time, or diverting people down a side street. This, just beyond the newly created handicapped access ramp on the corner, and the parking spaces created one paver at a time.
It’s been very tough for Buono and other Cedar Street merchants, Golden Hill Association President Jim DelGreco agreed. They have been struggling since the beginning of October, when Deering Construction began work on the project planned for a decade, but Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord said the end is in sight.
“I was out there today. They’ve started setting the curbs on the south side, so they’re still ahead of where they (expected to be),” Alvord said Monday, predicting a completion date for the roadwork sometime in June.
Not soon enough for Buono, 91, who said, “Once you lose your customers, you never get them back, especially when you get old.”
His landlord, former Norwalk Councilman Harold Mccready, had philosophical thoughts on the topic.
“It’s a pain in the neck right now, no question, but I think it’s going to be very nice when it’s finished,” he said. “I will say, though, that things like this happen because of the downturn in our private sector economy. We are having massive government spending to keep the money pouring, to keep the people in jobs. If I had called the city of Norwalk two years ago and told them that I needed a new sidewalk in front of my building, they would have said, ‘what are you talking about? You have to do it yourself. We don’t do that.’”
DelGreco said that is partially true.
Association members thought they were ahead of the game with the planning they were doing, but had to scramble when the Obama administration sent stimulus money toward Interstate 95, he said.
“We realized that this was the perfect opportunity to get this stuff done and literally change the whole look of that area over a two-year period,” he said. “We pushed for the timing to get Cedar Street done while the Cedar Street bridge was closed. That was a critical thing. We kept saying, ‘You’ve got to do this while the Cedar Street bridge is closed because closing Cedar Street is going to affect the merchants. It would be horrible for everybody concerned if the bridge was down for two years and then we do the renovation on the street. It all needs to be done at the same time.’ … We literally couldn’t get the city timing right with the bridges closed down. It really has had a huge impact on the merchants, which we’re very sorry about.”
The South Western Regional Planning Agency (SWRPA) has long-range plans to upgrade Taylor and Fairfield avenues for a unified streetscape, he said.
“I have to look at the positive point from this,” he said. “When this street gets done it’s really going to be beautiful. Eventually you’re going to see a whole change from literally exit 14 right down Fairfield Avenue, including Cedar. It’s going to have a wonderful feel, like you’re coming into South Norwalk and that we’re part of the downtown Washington Street area. Again, the shame about this is that we just couldn’t get the whole thing timed. … The eventual outcome, I personally feel, and we all do, that the outcome is going to be worth the headaches that we went through to get there.”
Alvord explained that the Cedar Street project involves an extensive facelift.
“It’s going to look beautiful,” he said. “You’re going to have brick pavers in your parking areas. You’re going to have a lot of additional parking from what they used to have, and I mean good parking that isn’t people sitting on sidewalks and blocking driveways and all of that kind of stuff. You’re going to have historic light posts. You’re going to have trees, and Adopt a Spot. You’re going to have good drainage so there aren’t puddles sitting on the road.”
Right now, to use a home construction analogy, the caulking is done and the paint is being put on the wall, DelGreco said.
Taking care of the infrastructure under the road – and across the bridges, which included water lines – was massive, he said.
“You’ve got 150-year-old sewer lines that have to be separated, because half the stuff in the old part of town, the drainage lines, the sewer lines, they’re all together. You can’t do the road before you can do the infrastructure,” he said.
The work included “a hole that had to be two stories deep and 25 yards wide” for a while, DelGreco said.
“I can’t tell you how tough this has been for everybody,” he said. “Because there has not been the coordination … But what are you going to do? You’re either going to push forward to get something done for your community or you’re just going to say ‘OK, we’ll just leave it like it’s been for the last 50 years in the horrible condition it’s been in.’”
Leave a Reply
You must Register or Login to post a comment.